Faith for the Future

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world.”[1]

 How can we have peace in the midst of tribulation? How can we have courage in tribulation? How can we overcome in tribulation? The answer I have to offer you in this message is “Faith”.

To truly understand why faith is essential in facing the future, we need to begin by understanding what is meant by “faith”. Its very definition contains elements that uncover the things which will come into play and the issues that will be at stake in the future. The Greek word translated “faith” most often in the New Testament is “pistis”.[2] To have “faith” means to believe in, trust in, depend upon, and lean upon something or someone. The issue for the future is the same as it always has been: To what or who will we look, depend upon, and lean upon regarding the issues of our lives and the lives of our loved ones? What will be the foundation of our faith? What will our faith rest upon? The provision of Christ and His kingdom? Or the provision of the Antichrist and his kingdom?

The book of Hebrews has much to tell us about faith – faith in tribulation, and faith for the future. In Chapter 11, the writer defines “faith” as: “Now faith is the assurance (or substance) of things hoped for (or things expected), the conviction (or evidence) of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval (literally, a good testimony). 3 By faith we understand that the worlds (literally, the ages) were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”[3] The essential thing we need to understand about faith is that it rests upon something that is NOT SEEN – something INVISIBLE. These verses tell us that Biblical faith rests on God. The invisible God of heaven Who has spoken is the only “assurance” and “evidence” for the things we “hope for” and “expect” in the future.

Kingdom Expectation

I suggest to you that our only other option is to depend and lean upon another invisible god – “the god of this world”[4]. This god also speaks[5] – that is, “lies”, for Jesus identified him as “a liar and the father of lies”[6]. Fundamental to all his lies – from the beginning of creation to the end of this age – is the idea that humans have a right to be “as God knowing (or designating) good and evil”[7]. Biblical language scholar James Strong says that the Hebrew word yada “has a great variety of senses”.[8] While the word can mean to “know” in the sense of observation and recognition, Strong also gives the idea of “making known” by “instruction” and “designation” – that is, to “decide”, to “designate” good and evil.[9] Which application makes more logical and doctrinal sense regarding being “as God” – God “experiencing good and evil”?  Or God “designating good and evil”? The fundamental lie of this invisible god who took on physical form in the Garden and will take on physical form again in the future is this: The idea that human beings have the right to govern themselves independently of God – designating for themselves what is good and evil. The reality that lies behind “the lie” is that there is no such thing as human beings governing themselves. This reality emerged immediately after Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden. It is clearly seen throughout all human history (if one is intellectually honest). And it will still be the case in the future: Human beings have never governed themselves. They are governed by spiritual forces – either the God of heaven or “the god of this world”. “There is nothing new under the sun”[10] – these remain the only two options in the future: the kingdom of God or the kingdoms of this world under the power of Satan. There are only two options for the foundation of our faith. There are only two options to rest our faith upon. We are either going to depend and lean upon the God of heaven or “the god of this world” – Christ or the Antichrist.

“Now faith is the assurance (or substance) of things hoped for (or things expected), the conviction (or evidence) of things not seen.” Therefore, it is imperative that we have clarity about a world we do not yet see but are hoping for and expecting. I believe the writer to the Hebrews helps us to have the proper kingdom expectation:

“26 And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’[11] 27 This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; 29 for our God is a consuming fire.”[12]  

What the God of heaven tells us to hope for and expect in the future is a spiritual and eternal kingdom providing “righteousness, peace and joy”[13] which reside in the Holy Spirit”[14]. What “the god of this world” has always promised but will never be able to deliver (because he is not the Creator), merely consists of the “created things” of this present world – a system promising an illusion of human beings evolving, governing, providing for, and prospering themselves independently of God.

With regards to the God of heaven, the apostle Peter says: “according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”[15] Whereas the god of this world” has “a different gospel”[16] which goes like this: “Our world is in danger of being destroyed. Trust me in this: This world doesn’t have to self-destruct. I will re-order it with a system that will guarantee indefinite evolution, peace, and prosperity for all humanity. It consists of a universal religious system in which everyone believes everything, not tolerating any one religion as the only way. It is a system of government which will allow me to establish and maintain universal peace and harmony by removing all national boundaries which have been established[17] so that there will be only one government for one world. In exchange for this security, I must have absolute control and your total allegiance.”

The God of heaven offers a spiritual, eternal kingdom – “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ”.[18] “The god of this world” offers a temporal, material kingdom – “the bread and lentil stew” for which Esau despised his birthright.[19] To which will we give our heart, allegiance, and life? As Bob Dylan said:

“You’re going have to serve somebody .…It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”[20]

Jesus pointed out that we always serve our source: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Where are our treasures and our hearts? Laid up in heaven[21]? Or in the affairs of this life[22]?

THE FAITH that Overcomes the World

In Luke 18:8 we find Jesus asking a question: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”[23] He voiced that question at the end of a parable He had just told. Luke explains: “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.”[24] Why would there be a question about the Lord finding faith at the end of the age? Because people will lose heart. People will lose faith because they will “lose heart”. The Greek word there is ekkakeo, meaning to be “faint” or “weary”. Jesus said “Because lawlessness is increased, the love of most will grow cold”[25]; and likewise, because of tribulation, most will “lose heart” – grow faint and weary. Indeed, the prophet Daniel prophesied that the Antichrist would “wear down the saints”[26]. So, when the Lord returns, will He find faith on the earth? In the Greek, the question is literally “will He find THE FAITH on the earth”, that is, “THE FAITH which was once for all delivered to the saints”.[27] I think it is important to consider that at the end of the age, people will still have options regarding what they will decide to put their faith in – or rest their faith upon. The fact is, throughout all human history, people have had the same options: We are always free to put our faith in or rest our faith upon God, or self, or other people, places, and things. The truly biblical faith is faith in God, which rests upon the Foundation of Jesus Christ. The “scheme of the Devil” – the agenda of the Antichrist – is to direct people’s faith toward his beast system, which rests upon himself. To encourage this, he is systematically wearing down the peoples of the world, with a particular emphasis on the saints.

True biblical faith encompasses “life and death” issues. This is what the writer to the Hebrews had to say about some who “gained approval through their faith”: “35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. 39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”[28]

This is the kind of faith Daniel had in Babylon, even in the lions’ den.[29] This is the kind of faith that allowed his three Hebrew friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, to say: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”[30] In a life and death situation, or when a choice needs to be made that will determine our future – be it our continued survival, or merely maintaining a certain quality of life in the material realm, will we have the faith to remain faithful to the God of heaven rather than bow to the god of this world?

Do we have an authentic biblical faith? We need to know, because sooner or later, the foundation of our faith will be tested. Our spiritual lives can be likened to a house: There is a bedrock, a foundation laid upon the bedrock[31], and a building upon the foundation.[32] Jesus identified the bedrock as revelation of Him.[33] Paul identified the Foundation as relationship with Christ.[34] That Foundation will be tested by “a flood”.[35] And that which is being built upon that Foundation will be “tested by fire”.[36] The “flood” and “fire” will be the implementation of “the new world order”; but all this will prepare the way for the coming of the Lord.

In the future, life on earth will look and feel like what Isaiah prophesied: “A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. “Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ A voice says, ‘Call out.’ Then he answered, ‘What shall I call out?’ ‘All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”[37] This is merely a statement of this passage. There is much here to be reflected upon. Suffice to say that there will be tumultuous changes taking place in the world, but all preparing the way for the coming of Christ.

We mentioned that the writer to the Hebrews warned us that God will shake everything that is shakable for the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain”[38] in order to refocus our hearts and lives onto the eternal things of the unshakable kingdom – “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”.[39] Everything in our lives will be shaken, and all that will remain is that which is built upon the Foundation of Jesus Christ.[40]

When He comes, Jesus will be looking for THE FAITH that has not been shaken or led astray by the Antichrist. A faith that remains unshaken is THE FAITH that rests upon that which is unshakable. The apostle Paul declared: “The firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His’.”[41] These are those who are “born of God”. Theirs is THE FAITH that “overcomes the world”[42]. Theirs is THE FAITH “which was once for all delivered to the saints”.[43] Theirs is THE FAITH which Jesus will be looking for when He comes – THE FAITH that rests upon Him as it’s Foundation.

Rest

As I said earlier, the book of Hebrews has much to tell us about faith – faith in tribulation, and faith for the future. In the New King James Version, the heading of Hebrews 4 is: “The Promise of Rest”. In the New American Standard Version, it reads, “The Believer’s Rest”. The English Standard Version says, “Rest for the People of God”. We need to understand that faith leads to “rest”: “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest….”[44]

Another thing that we need to understand is that “rest” is a place – a spiritual place. While that may be difficult to comprehend, nevertheless, it is a place. Rest is not something we do. In this passage, the word “rest” is a noun, not a verb. It is not a ceasing of activity. Hebrews 4:11 tells us to “be diligent to enter into that rest”. The Greek word, spoudazo, means “to make an earnest effort” – it doesn’t mean a ceasing of activity, but rather, making an earnest effort to enter into a particular spiritual place through faith. I would like to suggest that “rest” is a place in the Spirit – like “righteousness, peace and joy – in the Holy Spirit”[45], “rest” is a place in the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit used the word “rest” in the Old Testament to refer to the Promised Land.[46] The Lord told Joshua: “The Lord your God gives you rest and will give you this land.”[47] David said: “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.”[48] “Rest” is a land in which we dwell and cultivate faithfulness.

Under the New Covenant, we understand that we have been transferred into a spiritual kingdom.[49] Because it is spiritual, God’s “rest” can be entered into right here and now on earth.

The Secret Place of the Most High

Moses asked the Lord to see His glory. Something worth considering for the future is that the glory of the Lord which Moses experienced in his life all took place in the wilderness.[50] But when Moses made the request to see the Lord’s glory, this was the Lord’s response: “Behold, there is a place with Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.”[51] “Rest” is a place with God. “Rest” is a place in the cleft of the Rock which is Christ.[52]

In the future, the glory of the Lord may be experienced as a whirlwind during times of tribulation; but when we are in the place of “rest”, the Lord will cover us with His hand.

David knew this place of “rest”. He called it various things: a “Hiding Place”, a “Shelter”, “The Secret Place of the Most High”. Some verses from the Psalms of David …

From Psalm 27:

For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.”[53]  

From Psalm 31:

You hide (me) in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep (me) secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.”[54]

From Psalm 32:

“You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance.”[55]

Psalm 91[56]

“He who dwells in The Secret Place of the Most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.” 3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. 4 He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. 5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. 8 Only with your eyes shall you look and see the reward of the wicked. 9 Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 11 for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. 12 In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. 13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion, and the serpent you shall trample underfoot. 14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. 15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.”

* * * * * * *

“Faith for the Future” is an excerpt from the eBook “Facing the Future”. See the corresponding eBook and Audio Message on our website.

At Christ’s Table – ACTpublications 2013

“Explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” 1 Corinthians 2:13

* * * * * * *

FOOTNOTES

[1] John 16:33

[2] Strong’s # 4102

[3] Hebrews 11:1-3 (NASB) The words in parentheses are in the reference notes of the translators.

[4] 2 Corinthians 4:4

[5] viz. In the last days, through the false prophet.

[6] John 8:44

[7] Genesis 3:5

[8] Strong’s Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary

[9] Strong’s Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary

[10] Ecclesiastes 1:9

[11] Haggai 2:6

[12] Hebrews 12:26-29 (reference to Haggai 2:6)

[13] Romans 14:17

[14] Marvin Vincent says: “I see no objection with construing the words (“in the Holy Spirit”) with all these terms.” Godet: “It is this divine guest, who by His presence produces them in the church.”

[15] 2 Peter 3:13 (also v. 10 and Revelation 21:1)

[16] 2 Corinthians 11:4

[17] By God – Acts 17:26

[18] Ephesians 1:3

[19] Genesis 25:30-34

[20] Bob Dylan, “Gotta Serve Somebody” from “Slow Train Coming” (1979)

[21] Matthew 6:20-21

[22] 2 Timothy 2:4 (NKJV)

[23] Luke 18:8

[24] Luke 18:1

[25] Matthew 24:12

[26] Daniel 7:25

[27] Jude 3

[28] Hebrews 11:35-40

[29] Daniel 6

[30] Daniel 3:16-18

[31] Luke 6:48

[32] 1 Corinthians 3:10 & 12

[33] Matthew 16:15-18

[34] 1 Corinthians 3:11

[35] Luke 6:48-49

[36] 1 Corinthians 3:12-13

[37] Isaiah 40:3-8

[38] Hebrews 12:27

[39] Again, I would like to suggest that God even uses the chaos created by the “schemes of the Devil” to accomplish His work of shaking, removing, and refocusing our hearts and lives.

[40] 1 Corinthians 3:14-15

[41] 2 Timothy 2:19. A reference to Numbers 16:5

[42] 1 John 5:4

[43] Jude 3

[44] Hebrews 4:1-3a

[45] Romans 14:17

[46] Psalm 95:11; Numbers 14:23, 28-30; Deuteronomy 1:35.

[47] Joshua 1:13

[48] Psalm 37:3

[49] Colossians 1:13

[50] Cf. Revelation 12:14 This may be a picture of an Underground Church.

[51] Exodus 33:21-22

[52] 1 Corinthians 10:4

[53] Psalm 27:5

[54] Psalm 31:20

[55] Psalm 32:7

[56] New King James Version

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Quo Vadis

God is always moving forward in His kingdom plans and purposes. He never moves backward. And for those who love Him, He never stops moving in our lives for His glory. But to continue moving on with God “from glory to glory” requires our living “from faith to faith”. It takes an act of faith